In 1991, two young girls were abducted from their neighborhood in Spokane’s West Central area. One was found dead, the other has never been found. The shocking crimes brought West Central residents together and they were determined to find ways to make their children and homes safer. The meetings included representatives from the Police Department, Spokane Public Schools, the city’s Human Services Department, West Central Community Center, and the Washington State University (W.S.U.) Cooperative Extension Service. After months of meetings, these groups, police officers, and citizens from the neighborhood created C.O.P.S. West.
The police-trained citizen volunteers take reports, gather information about possible drug houses, and become effective crime fighters. A merchant donated a building at Elm and Boone, and volunteers renovated it. A governing board was created with the involvement of scores of residents. The volunteers established a schedule to keep the center open daily. Police officers use the location to write reports, meet with residents, and afford a visible presence.
Since the establishment of C.O.P.S. West, there are now a total of 12 neighborhoods that have opened their own C.O.P.S. substations. In each neighborhood where a C.O.P.S. substation is operating, it becomes a focal point for citizen involvement. We hope, eventually, most Spokane neighborhoods will have their own variation of a C.O.P.S. Shop, staffed by trained volunteers who take an active part in their own community safety.